For all the hullabaloo that the creative team behind ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ made during the show’s production about how the series was going to be heavily serialized and far less episodic than the previous Trek iterations, it only took them until the seventh episode to step away from the serialized action and produce a significantly “standalone” entry. While it was far from the perfect episode, I disliked it significantly less than any of the episodes that have come before, so I guess that’s saying something?
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: A fairly quick-and-easy recap here: the action opens at a party on-board Discovery, where the DJ is playing disco music, apparently to match the DISCO workout shirts that the crew likes to wear. Soon Burnham and Tyler are called to the bridge as the ship has run across a space whale that’s on the endangered species list. When they bring the creature aboard, however, they discover that Harry Mudd awaits inside, and he has a device that lets him relive the same 30 minutes over and over. Mudd is using this time loop, of course, to try and take over Discovery so that he can sell the ship to the Klingons to pay off his debts – and kill and/or embarrass his former cell-mate Captain Lorca in the process.
Mudd’s almost got things figured out, having looped and re-looped 50-plus times – but he doesn’t know that Stamets is on to his plan, as he’s aware of the time loop while no one else is, because
science plot necessity. Eventually Stamets is able to get Burnham and Tyler to help him trick Mudd into ending the time loop. Mudd thinks he’s called the Klingons to come and take Discovery off his hands, but surprise! Stamets and team actually rigged the computer to call Stella, Mudd’s estranged betrothed, and her father, who take the suddenly-meek Mudd away and off the crew’s hands. Now back, presumably, to the war and other angsty things!
- Another episode, another shot of crew members lazily jogging around the already-crowded decks of a starship in wartime – wearing the dumb DISCO shirts, no less. The ship has a mess hall, a hydroponics bay, a party room, and a holodeck where/when there’s not supposed to be a holodeck – you’re telling me they couldn’t squeeze in a gym with a few treadmills as well?
- I appreciate the creative team trying to humanize the Starfleet members on board Discovery by showing them having a little late-night party, I really do. But it’s wartime, and one of the Fleet’s most decorated Admirals was just captured by the Klingons, directly after leaving this very ship, no less – and to top it all off, Lorca’s been shown as a ruthless hard-ass who will never take the rigors of war seriously. Do we really think a rave would get the green-light from the Captain at this point in time?
- So, one of Tilly’s most prominent personality features for the entire series so far is how socially awkward she is… until there’s a scene with the biggest potential for social awkwardness – a party – and then suddenly she’s the coolest cat around. It’s just laziness in the writing room, honestly.
- Speaking of laziness in writing, particularly in the care/attention to plot points: it’s a vast universe, Discovery on the front lines of the Klingon war – but yeah, sure, why can’t Stella’s ship magically come meet Discovery 10 minutes after the ship makes the call to her? And what a cheap way to try and wrap up the “Mudd threat” in this episode – Harry was shown as such a cold and callous fellow, wantonly killing Lorca and dozens of other crew members over and over and over again… until the (stereotypically presented) nagging significant other shows up, then suddenly he’s meek and speechless. Not to mention the fact that Lorca has already established a well-documented disdain for Mudd, and now the con man has been discovered to be attempting to take over a Federation vessel and sell it directly to war-time enemies, using almost-assuredly illegal technology? Throw in a Federation brig, for su– what’s that, we’re just going to send him home with his fiancee and her Dad? Okay, seems legit.
- There are infinite opportunities for Stamets to know that Mudd is coming back on-board over and over again, and there’s not one time that the Chief Engineer, on his own starship, can figure out a way to lock Mudd out of gaining control of the computer system? Or that he can keep working to defeat Mudd before giving up and simply telling Mudd that he’s the missing piece of the spore drive puzzle? More conveniences of the plot that really drag down the overall potential enjoyment of this episode. Overall, these issues don’t read as too terribly bad on first viewing… but the more you think about and/or re-watch the episode, the more glaring the issues become.
- ‘Discovery’ takes a page out of ‘The Orville’s’ book this week, and makes direct reference to the pop-culture of our (the viewers’) time, with both The Bee Gees and Al Green being the music of choice at this futuristic space party. What, 175-ish years have gone by and not one musician has made music they’d rather play? At our parties in today’s time, we always play music from that long ago – you were totally rocking the greatest hits of the 1840s at your last shindig, yeah?
- My disdain for ‘Discovery’s’ seemingly-rampant dismissal of existing Star Trek canon is well-documented, but now that we’ve met both Mudd and Stella, I have to admit that they are both seemingly in for a rough next 10 years if they look as they do now and will be looking like this in about a decade:
CLOSING THOUGHTS: While the conceit of the episode was engaging enough, and it was fun to get Rainn Wilson back in action in an episode that gave us a bit more Mudd to connect to The Original Series, the forced character development felt very shoehorned in, as the writers were undoubtedly working to try and remind themselves – and we the viewers – that the show is serialized, dammit!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru
Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca
Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Cadet Tilly
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ features new episodes Sunday nights at 8:30 pm online via CBS All Access.